Month: January 2017

Done list

Why You Should be Using a ‘Done List’


A done list is a short hand way of noting the main things accomplished in a period of time. It can take the form of a literal ‘list’, or simply ticks against a date on a calendar to represent having completed a goal on another consecutive day (such as going to the gym or not smoking).

I first came across the ‘done list’ as a concept when I read ‘Brainhack‘ by Neil Pavitt. I started writing done lists in work around 1 month ago, and it’s already changed the way I approach my work. Here’s why you should re-think the to-do list and consider writing a done list of your own:


Ambitious people – particularly British ambitious people – are particularly terrible at acknowledging when they have achieved something. It’s something to do with modesty, or perhaps being chastised for boastfulness in our early years. The done list forces you to take stock of what you have achieved. It forces you to state clearly what value you have driven within the time period, and it’s actually quite pleasant!


i am very busy

If you’re the kind of person who is running around all day without feeling like you’re getting anything done, it might actually be the case that you aren’t. Taking the time to pull together a done list will help you identify which of those energy-draining activities was a useful allocation of your time and which were simply an illusion of productivity.

In an article by Jessica Stillman for she asks whether what’s on your to-do list and what you actually spend your time doing line up. If they don’t, where is it going wrong?

If you get through the day and you’ve only really served others, however noble that might be it will not help you to meet your own objectives. Take a step back, see what you’ve actually achieved and adjust your focus according to how you feel about that balance.


Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve worked long hours all week only to freeze and fall silent when asked ‘what have you been working on this week?’ in a team meeting? Yup. Same.

The done list is a good way of summarising what you’ve achieved in the week and validating the feeling that you’ve worked hard. Often when I’ve been writing my done list I’ve struggled to recall how I spent my time initially, then it all comes flooding back once pen hits paper.

If I hadn’t taken 10 minutes to regurgitate the list of completed tasks into my journal last week I would have disregarded around 25-50% of the valuable tasks I’d done. I would have left the office on a Friday afternoon with a feeling of failure – after all I still had a huge to-do list. As it happens, the done list  was twice as long as the to-do list, so on reflection it had been a good week. Compiling the done list is what tipped the balance.


To do lists encourage you to attack the easier tasks first, so you can enjoy striking the line through the words. The temptation to strike off ‘submit expenses’ ahead of ‘financial modelling for Easter promo offers’ is so great that despite the relative unimportance of reclaiming a £20 train ticket, you find yourself filling out the form with gusto.


Seeing progress provides motivation. Reflecting on what you have already achieved can make you more productive simply by giving you the extra energy you need to crack on with the next big task.

Joel Gascoigne, Co-Founder/CEO of Buffer, has this to say about done lists:

“Done lists help me sustain my productivity throughout the week. I used to have that ‘where did the day go?’-feeling without being able to remember what I did. Now I look at my list and feel great about all the things I got done. That’s powerful.”

If that doesn’t convice you, Laura Vanderkam, Author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast has this too add: 

“Progress is motivating. Failure is not.”


progress the done list

If you’ve challenged yourself to lose 10lb and have lost 8.5, your to do list would suggest that you haven’t met your goal. The done list would clearly state that you’ve lost 8.5lbs – a cracking achievement – and allows you to give yourself a mental pat on the back.


There are plenty of free and excellent resources online to help with your done list. One interesting option is iDoneThis. Perhaps try downloading and reading their excellent e-book here

Too attached to the to-do list?

Yes, me too. I’m using both. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you need to switch completely from to-do to done to reep the benefits of the latter. Simply recording your ‘done’ tasks is enough to provide balance when your to-do list grows as fast as mine does!

Go forth, get shit done… and make a note of it.

F x



Excuse: I Don’t Have Time to Exercise

BULLSHIT. Yes, I said it. A controversial point and I know it.

It’s the most common excuse for not engaging in activities which contribute to a healthy lifestyle – the fact that we are simply too busy.

In the past I’ve declared “I don’t have time” to justify the many things that in hindsight, I just simply didn’t want to do. It’s far easier to communicate using that short statement than it is to explain that we have allocated our precious time to something else, because we place greater value on that alternative activity than say, a spin class (which quite frankly, is fair enough!).

The Luxury of Time

Modern life is a series of connected events which merge together to create a waking day which is ‘fully switched on’ from start to finish. Every waking hour of every day appears to be consumed with working, eating, networking and running around after other important people in our lives.

In fact, according to Ofcom, we’re spending two hours online on our smartphones every day; twice as long as laptops and PCs.

How to ‘Find Time’

It’s not very helpful to rubbish the excuse without providing practical steps to get over it, so here’s some of the techniques I’ve used in the past when I’ve been hammering the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse…

1. The ‘Time-Sheet Test’

Otherwise referred to as the ‘repeat test’, you keep a detailed log of your day, including any ‘down time’. I can almost guarantee you that you’re committing time to things you don’t place any value on, or to things you simply didn’t realise you were doing! Having seen in black and white how you’re allocating time, you might wish to ditch the third consecutive episode of that Netflix drama and get some fresh air.

2. Be a Bit Selfish

If the one real barrier between your current position and a healthier lifestyle truly is time, when you’re making your choices about what you want and therefore what is most important for you to fit into your routine, consider first the direct effect on your life and then consider the effect on the lives of those for whom you care the most.

3. Sleep Less

Sleep is something people often give up to fit in the things when they’re struggling for time but having tried 5am daily workouts for a few months I decided sleep wasn’t something I could sacrifice – the cumulative impact of sleep deprivation was just horrible.

For more tips on how to find time in unexpected places, see this Huffington Post Article.

How to ‘Squeeze In’ Exercise

If the above methods have failed, all is not lost! I’ve had many weird suggestions from my friends over the years on how to fit in exercise ‘in disguise’. Here’s some of the weird and wonderful ways my associates manage it despite not being able to find the time…

1. Switch up the Transport Method

The prime candidate for this is the commute to the office.  A friend of mine switched the car journey for cycling. This added 15 minutes to his commute in the morning and again on the way home, but it did mean that he was getting in 45 minutes each way of moderate cardio. The way he looked at it was that he would already spend an hour a day getting to and from work and wanted to do around an hour a day of exercise. In combining the two he managed to SAVE half an hour in the day!

Many companies actually incentivise cycling to work through cycle to work schemes, so check with your employer if you plan on making this switch!

2. Make the Train Less Convenient

For some of us, cycling to the office isn’t an option. Getting off the train / tram a station further from the office can be just as effective.

This is a relatively small change to make and often doesn’t inconvenience the traveller much more. Take the example of riding the tram into Manchester city centre – if you want to get to Victoria from south Manchester, then you could stay on the tram right through to that stop. As an alternative, you could jump off the tram near the city library and walk the 10-15 minutes to the office from there (assuming the office is close to Victoria!). This would, as a return journey, amount to nearly the recommended daily minimum exercise quota per current government guidelines.

Squat whilst Brushing Your Teeth

This was one of the more ‘out-there’ suggestions. Brushing your teeth is an essential part of our daily bodily maintenance, and whilst I don’t want to discourage concentrated and methodical tooth-brushing, most people can probably manage moving their legs independently from their arms in order to dip down into the squat position a few times. If that’s not the case, then you’re also developing co-ordination skills at the same time. Win-Win.

Some even go as far as whole dental-related workouts – see this handy article for more ideas! 

Sit-ups in the Ad Break

Dropping to the floor and doing sit ups or press ups when the adverts are on the TV doesn’t really appeal to me, but I can see how it’s better than being in full couch potato mode.

The only real flaw is that a lot of what we watch now may be recorded, and therefore you could just whizz through the adverts, thus avoiding the exercise altogether!

Under-Desk Leg Raises

This requires you to hold your legs out in front of you at a right angle to the body when sitting at the desk, thus engaging the abdominal muscles and quads.

It might look a little bit odd if you have a desk which doesn’t have ‘sides’ or you’re on the end of you bank of desks, so perhaps have your reasoning readily prepared in case you get challenged about why your legs are suspended in mid-air.

Try some of the other ‘Stealth’ moves in the office – check out the tips in this article!

Take the Flipping’ Stairs!

Whilst this is possibly one of the most obvious suggestions, I expect few of us actually do this! I used to work on the 12th floor, so by the time I had walked up, it had taken me a few minutes and because I’d come from outside in my big winter coat carrying my work bag and my lunch supplies I would be very warm and flustered, therefore much preferred to take the lift!

Hold ‘Walking Meetings’

Again this is a bit of an odd one, but fairly logical nonetheless. There are plenty of meetings I’ve been in that could have been conducted on-the-go. In fact, I often used to dash out at lunchtime to grab something for lunch an with my colleagues in tow, we would effectively be having a walking meeting.

There are obviously some draw -backs. It’s pretty hard to take notes, and even harder to show slides, but next time you have a 1-2-1 or a less paper heavy meeting perhaps suggest a quick walk in the fresh air.

The oft-cited benefits of improved productivity and the ability to break down hierarchical barriers in the workplace might sway you towards trying it nonetheless.

If the thought of that is far too ludicrous, perhaps suggest the meeting takes place somewhere away from your desk so that you at least have the benefit of getting up and walking, even if it is only to a meeting room on another floor.

Do ‘Exercise Sprints’

This means splitting your (for example) 25 minute workout into 5 x 5 minutes slotting those small sprints into the day.

This was something I saw on a social media post, by a new mum who was struggling to fit in her work-outs. She had a yoga mat at home and would split her workout into 5 rounds of 5 x 1 minute exercise bursts, meaning she could do them on an ad hoc basis around whatever needs her baby son had.Sounds intense, but completely do-able.

Actually Take a Lunch Break

Take a break at lunchtime and use it wisely. Perhaps a stroll, gym class or a swift stretch. This is so easy to do, yet so many of us work through our lunch break that it just doesn’t happen. Not only is it physically beneficial to take a lunch break, but has been proven to improve productivity upon your return to work. Even the boss will be happy.


Keeping on Track

Physically allocating time for something in the day is one thing, but committing to it longer term is another thing altogether. Maintaining good habits much harder than choosing to adopt them in the first place and takes considerable self-discipline.

It’s important to learn to differentiate between when you:

  1. Genuinely have other more important things to do (e.g. you’re in work for a long shift, then picking up the kids, then have a dentist appointment, then have to wash the clothes and take the dog for a walk) or;
  2. You’re stretching out other things in order to provide a bullshit excuse for yourself to mean you can justify avoiding training – otherwise known as procrastination – something I used to be very good at!

If you’re in a situation where you genuinely need to prioritise other things then you also need to accept it, get that done, and take tomorrow as a new day. Shit happens.

If you really honestly don’t have time to work out, then so be it. Accept that you’ve prioritised something else that was a worthwhile focus of your time and then you can be happy and content with your decision.

It’s all a choice – and the best bit is, you only need to be accountable to yourself!

F x